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Rodriguez v. Sampson

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 5, 2018




         Plaintiff, is proceeding in this action pro se and in forma pauperis. Although plaintiff is presently incarcerated, this action does not challenge his conditions of confinement. This proceeding was accordingly referred to this court by E.D. Cal. R. (“Local Rule”) 302(c)(21).


         The federal IFP statute requires federal courts to dismiss a case if the action is legally “frivolous or malicious, ” fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Plaintiff must assist the court in determining whether or not the complaint is frivolous, by drafting the complaint so that it complies with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“Fed. R. Civ. P.”). Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the complaint must contain (1) a “short and plain statement” of the basis for federal jurisdiction (that is, the reason the case is filed in this court, rather than in a state court), (2) a short and plain statement showing that plaintiff is entitled to relief (that is, who harmed the plaintiff, and in what way), and (3) a demand for the relief sought. Fed.R.Civ.P. (“Rule”) 8(a). Plaintiff's claims must be set forth simply, concisely and directly. Rule 8(d)(1).

         A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court will (1) accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint, unless they are clearly baseless or fanciful, (2) construe those allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and (3) resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor. See Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327; Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasadena, 592 F.3d 954, 960 (9th Cir. 2010), cert. denied, 564 U.S. 1037 (2011).

         The court applies the same rules of construction in determining whether the complaint states a claim on which relief can be granted. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (court must accept the allegations as true); Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974) (court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff). Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, the court need not accept as true conclusory allegations, unreasonable inferences, or unwarranted deductions of fact. Western Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981). A formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action does not suffice to state a claim. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         To state a claim on which relief may be granted, the plaintiff must allege enough facts “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         A pro se litigant is entitled to notice of the deficiencies in the complaint and an opportunity to amend, unless the complaint's deficiencies could not be cured by amendment. See Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987).


         The First Amended Complaint (“complaint”) names Joyce Sampson as the sole defendant in this lawsuit. ECF No. 6 at 1. The complaint alleges causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). ECF No. 6 at 1-2. These statutes are asserted as the basis for federal question jurisdiction. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges first that defendant is liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the termination of plaintiff's disability benefits, in the form of “rent and Food 4 Less vouchers, ” by “the state's welfare agency.” ECF No. 6 at 1. There are no supporting facts. Id. In order to state a cognizable claim under section 1983, plaintiff must allege a deprivation of federal rights by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). Plaintiff's complaint does not explain Joyce Sampson's role in the alleged denial of benefits, or provide facts to show that she was acting under color of state law. Moreover, § 1983 provides relief only for violations of federal rights. Plaintiff does not identify any federal statute or constitutional provision that has been violated by defendant. He appears to complain about the denial of state welfare and/or disability benefits, but he identifies no federal right to such benefits and the undersigned is aware of none. For these reasons, plaintiff's first cause of action fails to state a claim.

         Plaintiff's second cause of action rests on the federal Administrative Procedures Act, which governs the procedures of federal administrative agencies. To the extent plaintiff is challenging the termination of state and/or county services and benefits, this federal law does not apply. The complaint does not contain any facts which would suggest a violation of 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., or which link Joyce Sampson to any violation of that Act. Accordingly, plaintiff's second cause of action fails to state a claim.

         Plaintiff's third cause of action relies on 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), which provides for judicial review of the denial of federal Social Security disability benefits by the Commissioner of Social Security. There are no facts in the complaint to indicate that plaintiff applied for and was denied federal Social Security disability benefits. This statute does not create a federal judicial review process for the denial of state or county benefits. If plaintiff did pursue Social Security benefits, and has received a final decision from the Commissioner of Social Security finding that he is not disabled, then he may bring a civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). In that case ...

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